Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma in the Military
Serving in the military comes with many risks, one of which might come as a surprise for those unfamiliar: developing mesothelioma. Individuals who served in the military between the 1930s to the 1980s may have come into contact with asbestos, a mineral composed of millions of small fibers. Exposure to asbestos is known to lead to the development of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. Below we discuss asbestos exposure in the military, as well as the legal options available to veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service.
How Exposure to Asbestos Leads to Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma refers to an aggressive form of cancer that develops on the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that covers most internal organs. Asbestos, a mineral with many small fibers, can lead to mesothelioma if an individual inhales or otherwise consumes these fibers over time. This is because the fibers present in asbestos do not break down when inside the body, and instead stick to the mesothelium lining that surrounds the internal organs. Over time these fibers cause inflammation in the affected areas, as well as abnormal cell growth and tumors.
Because asbestos is particularly prone to falling apart and becoming airborne, it is fairly common for inhalation of these fibers to lead to mesothelioma in the lungs specifically. However, mesothelioma can also occur in the heart, abdomen, ovaries, or testicles.
Exposure to Asbestos in the Military
The U.S. military consists of many different branches, including the marines, the army, the navy, the coast guard, and the air force. Within each wing of the military, there are a wide number of assignments that an individual may receive. Members of the military who served between the 1930s and 1980s may have received assignments that put them in close contact with asbestos. Such assignments may include, but are not limited to, positions related to manufacturing, construction, demolition, mining, welding, plumbing, any type of mechanics and maintenance work, engineering, chemical processing, and electrician assignments.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma that arises as a result of asbestos exposure can take decades to become noticeable. A service member may not know that they have mesothelioma until the symptoms start to arise later in life, which can happen well after they have been discharged by the military. This is because the small fibers can sit on the mesothelium for years causing an irritation that slowly makes way to abnormal cells or cancer cells.
Symptoms of mesothelioma can include any of the following:
- Pain in the chest
- Pain when coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Lumps forming under the skin on the chest
- Unusual weight loss
- Pain or swelling in the abdomen
- Menstrual changes
- Back pain
- Chronic sore throat
- Feeling hoarse
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty with digestion
- Unusual changes in bowel movements
If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms and have served in the military, you may want to bring this information to the attention of your doctor. Your physician can help determine whether you have developed mesothelioma and what your treatment options are. It is important to note that mesothelioma is aggressive and can be fatal. Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma at this time. However, there are mesothelioma treatments that are available to help reduce symptoms and slow the spread of this cancer. The main treatments of mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Legal and Compensation Options for Veterans
If you or your loved one developed mesothelioma as a result of time spent in service to the military, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Below we outline the legal and compensation options for veterans and their families who have received a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
The VA offers disability compensation to veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos during their time in service to the military. These benefits are awarded to veterans who demonstrate the connection between their condition and asbestos exposure that arose during their time in service. Once a veteran's claim is approved, they are granted a 100% disability rating, which describes a veteran's disability level and grants them access to monthly payments and free cancer treatments through the VA health care system.
Veterans can also pursue legal action against the companies and manufacturers that produced the asbestos or equipment that played a part in their development of mesothelioma. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may elect to pursue a personal injury claim to cover the costs associated with your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or other types of financial compensation. Another option involves pursuing a wrongful death claim in the event that your loved one passed away as a result of having mesothelioma.
You may also seek to file a trust fund claim against the companies responsible for your condition. The compensation derived from trust funds was set up by asbestos companies who went bankrupt but set aside money to cover past and future claims against them.
Each of these legal options come with their own pros and cons, including financial payout and timeline considerations, for example. It is important to speak with an attorney to determine which legal options are right for you.
Other Financial Assistance
In addition to VA benefits and mesothelioma lawsuits, an individual may also elect to cover the financial costs associated with their mesothelioma diagnosis with other forms of financial assistance. Social Security benefits can be used to cover such costs, as well as the many non-profit organizations that provide financial assistance to mesothelioma patients and their families.
What to Do After a Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
f you or a loved one is a current or former military service member who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may want to pursue legal action to secure the compensation you need for medical treatment and peace of mind. Connecting your mesothelioma to your time in the military is an important step in this process. At the same time, documenting your time in the military, your exposure to asbestos, as well as your diagnosis and ongoing treatments are crucial in securing financial compensation for this aggressive illness. An experienced attorney at Cooney & Conway can help guide you through these processes.
Are you or a loved one living with mesothelioma after serving in the military? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. Fill out our free case evaluation form to be put in contact with an experienced attorney or take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more.